“You know what date it is?”
“Yes.” Morph Zed laughed. This creature from the north, this ashen figure with several red spots on his pale, white skin, this frail thirty-three year old child of a man, was indeed as educated as he’d been told.
“July, 15th of the year 2063, AD.”
Shattered said these words without any emotion. Stricken with new, new, new, he felt cold, blank; he stared at the Premier. The massive, transparent ovoid building, towered some two-hundred meters over the calm Marin Bay. The day was sunny, cloudlesss, dry. Inside, the temperature in the main nexus, near the top, remained a stable 22.2 degrees Celsius. Humidity stayed fixed at 53.5%. Morph Zed’s offices took up several floors. Aside from the opaque flooring, the rest of the building was entirely transparent. One couldn’t tell that there was something like glass containing this giant egg protruding from the cliff-side; one might just walk off into the ocean – only to bump into a soft gel-like invisible wall.
Morph Zed’s face betrayed his age. He seemed a man frozen in time. Shattered thought he didn’t look much older than perhaps ten-and-five years above his own thirty-three circles around the sun. Regenerative medicine is unbelievable, incredible – he almost said this out-loud. Shattered’s sweaty palms rubbed at his soft, new white, linen trousers. He sweated profusely under his arms, but his white shirt discretely maintained itself – and himself – dry. The sun’s rays came in gently, as though they’d been dimmed but only on their entry, for the outside could be seen in all its luminous glory.
“Pope Gregory XIII wanted to control time. He commissioned the making of the calendar; look, here is aerial footage of the Vatican – see that building there? Near the Sistine Chapel? That’s the old museums. Above, in the chamber up there, is where the Meridian still stands – to this day. He also, not so incidentally, had all of Italy mapped. Incredible pieces. To control – to know, time and land, spacetime. Old Europe, sunken into a feudal state. Warring little bands of people fighting over scraps. Yes, yes, I know what you are thinking. Why don’t we go over there and offer to help. We cannot. The Nexus Directives of our Republic, drawn up before the Carrington Event, prohibit all nonessential interaction with people who fell into a pre-technological state. We monitor the entire globe. The mass solar ejection cleared a great deal of space debris – satellites are in orbit right now, and this… More on this later. Solar drones produce a great deal of data as well. With the exception of the underground resettlement program in China, which had ten underground cities, holding some twenty million people, and is now a society far more advanced than anything we’ve got here, the world has fallen back in time. Or forward? Who knows. Plagues, diseases that were once eradicated came back; post-industrial and industrial food supply chains were cut-off immediately as the Carrington Event II happened. All electronic equipment not secured was destroyed, as you know. The light was so bright; you were just baby, and couldn’t possibly remember. Night time glowed as though day, we had to shut off the liquid light at night, to adjust the conditions. Some days afterwards we sent several aerial vehicles to monitor EM, and then we came out. Solar devices popped up. Within several years we developed into a thriving, research-based society of some two-hundred thousand. The children of the most privileged. And then we became inward looking, as we witnessed in horror the mass death, the starvation, the plagues – diseases ravaged entire peoples – we counted as the homo sapien population fell daily. Then some very ill people tried to come from the former Southern California exclusion zone, and the farmers of the Central Valley had them all massacred. Yes, Park – your home – is a lucky place. Not many settlements managed to maintain organization, connection to the outside, and a sense of morality. The farmers, we all trade with them, but they practice every form of cruelty. They have no formal social organization, and they are not permitted into either Marin or Park. We receive their goods in a place formerly called Victorville, and your people trade with them in Etna.”
Morph Zed motioned and turned off the floor to ceiling monitor that demonstrated – in the most vivid set of images Shattered had ever seen – the narration. Shattered had witnessed some of the worst footage. Bodies piled in large burning pits; farmers’ using drones and long-distance lethal weapons to kill hundreds of refugees coming down a mountain pass; bodies on cement in places formerly called Paris, London, Lagos, Rome, Moscow, Kyiv, Los Angeles, missing limbs, skin falling off, coughing blood; zoomed lenses from safe aerial distances projected back to paradise images of a calamity. He fully understood his original question – What’s in a calamity? A question he’d asked himself since childhood. This, this, that, that, his eyes took in the visions from a distance reluctantly and also hungrily. He wanted to know. He didn’t want to see this and that. But he wanted to know. And the latter desire compelled him to consume these images – until the Premier noted their effect had its intended impact and turned off them off. A wall, light purple – lavender, remained.
“We turned inward because we could no longer look at this. Within several years, our society had become – and remains – as inward looking as some of Park’s most strict isolationists. Marin citizens know they are privileged, and aside from our inter-governmental pacts with Park and our less developed relationship with the Federated Cities of China, we aren’t globalists – a word that used to mean something different than it means now. A globalist is someone like your Autumn Spring, like you. We need people willing to explore. The problem is there is one place we cannot see or know with technology, it’s entirely a blank space, and no aerial or orbital vehicles have been capable of penetrating into the area around the former Victoria Island.”
“Yes, precisely. You’re aware of the tertiary facts. No one from Marin is willing to leave; well, five people are – the call went out over a year ago, and five people came forward. The Chamber of Deputies thought them insane, so they underwent eight months of extensive testing. When they were approved, by me, over the objections of Chamber – with the exception of Knowledge – to go to 53°N, well, they obviously needed someone who could manage to get them in without the use of technology. Someone with experience growing up in a pre-technological society. Autumn Spring put your name forward, and after you were elected as a member, she had that motion passed.”
“Because you’re obsessed, your distressed and you need this. And because you need it, you won’t stop until you find out what is there. The five who came forward are all scientists; mostly in the field of quantum mechanics, and one is a temporal physicist. None of them can make this journey – they wouldn’t know how to sleep outside, under the stars, with bare living. And they were technically prohibited from this kind of thing. Until…”
“Knowledge’s call out for volunteers?”
“Yes, our own ever curious counterpart to your Autumn Spring. And she’s one of the five.”